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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Shake It Up: A Shakespeare Cabaret’ plays on Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Stage through July 7

The show is quick, entertaining, and fun and, as said below, deserves a much longer run.

It Up: A Shakespeare Cabaret

Shakespeare & Company in Lenox
Co-created by Jacob Ming-Trent and Allyn Burrows
Directed by Allyn Burrows

“Here’s Rue for you.”

Familiar Shakespeare scenes and sonnets flesh out this more-than-clever revue, a musical excursion through love and deception devised by Shakespeare & Company’s Artistic Director Allyn Burrows and actor and singer Jacob Ming-Trent. In a brilliant flash of inspiration, they have devised a 90-minute show that could—and should—run all summer instead of just one week. A company of 12 players fill the Tina Packer Stage at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox; they fill it with music, merriment, and love.

Jacob Ming-Trent. Photo by Katie McKellick.

Ming-Trent has not only collaborated in the conception of the show, he is the nominal star of the event. He takes center stage and rarely relinquishes it, even when he is not there. Others may have their moments, their scenes, their solos, but none take that center stage microphone. Director Allyn Burrows has given the creator his place in the sun, and that is that.

The company includes Jennifer Apple, Gregory Boover, Johnny Irion, Jennie M. Jadow, Jim “Chetz” Keegan, Benny Kohn, Raya Malcolm, Merlin McCormick, Conor Meehan, Jaclyn Stevenson, and Burrows himself. None of them are identified in the program with the material they perform.

Gregory Boover. Photo by Katie McKellick.

Jazz and blues stylings dominate the first half of the show, and the second half opens with tributes to “Sesame Street,” Leonard Bernstein, and Judy Garland. Shakespeare & Company regular Gregory Boover has a single solo, playing with the band most of the time and, for my money, should have had a second song all to himself.

Scenes from “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” Twelfth Night,” and “King Lear” punch home the relevance of William Shakespeare’s words to the songs that surround them. They are all well-played moments, entertaining and moving.

Raya Malcom. Photo by Katie McKellick.

Even “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” gets her time on stage in the “Elephant Lounge” setting for the show. Ming-Trent and Burrows must be congratulated for this modern presentation of the finest moments Shakespeare can provide a modern, younger audience while still engaging their solid, stolid older admirers. The show is quick, entertaining, and fun and, as said above, deserves a much longer run.

“Shake It Up: A Shakespeare Cabaret” runs on the Tina Packer Stage at Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA, through July 7. For information and tickets, visit Shakespeare & Company’s website.


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